“Your morgauge is not my problum!”
There is a point to painstakingly tracing the lie that masked Speaker Boehner’s unprecedented bit of scheduling nastiness on the President’s speech before Congress last week. It throws a harsh light onto the problem that pulls it into sharp relief.
Rather than governing, the GOP strategy is to go on strike, knowing that it will tank the economy and cripple the government’s ability to respond TO that crisis. The insane glut of filibusters, and the endless federal appointments — including, famously, a department newly created last year — and refusal to fund the continuity of governmental policies is well known and needs no supporting citations. As America begins to burn, cobwebs grow on the chairs in the fire stations.
The hallmark of death cults is the slow but increasing divorcement of reality in favor of a shared “image” of reality that bears less and less resemblance to actual reality, buoyed by shared articles of “faith” and the increasing hatred of the “other” — that is, anyone who offers a different (generally reality-based) version OF reality.
Bodies at Jonestown
i. striking against the right to strike
Let’s start with the lede: for thirty years, the mantrum of the GOP has been that cutting taxes and regulations would “grow” the economy. Reagan started out by pushing the “trickle down” conception of economics (that GHW Bush characterized as “voodoo economics,” infamously) and it still appears as an article of faith on the stump.
And over the same period, we have witnessed the largest transfer of wealth in the history of humankind, all heading in the opposite direction. Water and urine may trickle down, but wealth has shown a propensity under the GOP regulatory Rube Goldberg conception to ONLY trickle UP. And yet, dispassionate observation fails to confirm the hypothesis (the opposite in fact) and yet the hypothesis is still held as a “Truth” of GOP economics.
Listen to John Boehner, Squeaker of the Haus, speaking to the Economic Club of Washington D.C. this morning:
My worry is that for American job creators, all the uncertainty is turning to fear that this toxic environment for job creation is a permanent state.
Job creators in America are essentially on strike.
The problem is not confusion about the policies. . .the problem is the policies.
Over the past few years, government has made people less confident — not more confident — that they can succeed.
More and more Americans are realizing this, and they’re speaking out about it.
I’ve spent the past 4-5 weeks traveling through my district and across this country, listening to the people outside of Washington who are the key to making our economy work.
My message to Washington today on their behalf: this isn’t that hard. We need to liberate our economy from the shackles of Washington. Let our economy grow!
The clear implication of this line of argument is that a) “job creators” COULD be creatin’ them jobs, but b) until they are free to do whatever they want (as long, to be fair, as they don’t harm children or dirty the environment, Boehner tosses in) they will STAY on strike. Get out of their way and everything would be hunky dory.
This flies in the face of reality: lack of regulation of the superheated “mortgages” markets directly led to a worldwide economic meltdown. The notion that you shoot yourself again with the same gun that blew out your right eyeball as a solution to the bleeding problem seems counter-intuitive, I must admit.
I have emphasized the “Atlas Shrugs” conceptions now being put into practice here. Those who believe that workers have no right to strike are on strike, happy to harm the uppity workers as a class. It is the hostage mentality — unless you give me what I want, I will harm us all (except I’m actually not at risk).
ii. Flying off the Handle, Metaphorically
“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
Let me remind you of a book that many, if not most, had to read in a class, sometime, somewhere. Or, if you were lucky, you read it on your own. William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord of the Flies:
[Wikipedia plot synopsis, partial may contain spoilers]
In the midst of a wartime evacuation, a British plane crashes onto an isolated island. The only survivors are male children below the age of 13. Two boys, the fair-haired Ralph and an overweight,bespectacled boy reluctantly nicknamed “Piggy” find a conch, which Ralph uses as a horn to bring all the survivors to one area. Two dominant boys emerge during the meeting: Ralph and Jack Merridew, a redhead who is the leader of a choir group that was among the survivors. Ralph is voted chief, losing only the votes of Jack’s fellow choirboys. Ralph asserts two goals: have fun, and work towards a rescue by maintaining a constant fire signal. They create the fire with Piggy’s glasses, nearly catching the whole island on fire. For a time, the boys work together.
Jack organises his choir group into the group’s hunters, who are responsible for hunting for meat. Ralph, Jack, and a black-haired boy named Simon soon become the supreme trio among the children. Piggy is quickly made an outcast by his fellow “biguns” (older boys) and becomes an unwilling source of laughs for the other children. Simon, in addition to supervising the project of constructing shelters, feels an instinctive need to protect the younger boys.
The original semblance of order imposed by Ralph quickly deteriorates as the majority of the boys turn idle. Around the same time, many of the younger boys begin to believe that the island is inhabited by a monster, referred to as “the beast”. Jack gains control of the discussion by boldly promising to kill the beast. At one point, Jack summons all of his hunters to hunt down a wild pig, including those who were supposed to be maintaining the fire. A ship approaches, but passes by because the signal fire has gone out. Although the hunting of the pig turns out to be the hunters’ first successful catch, Ralph is infuriated that they have missed a potential rescue. Later, Ralph envisages relinquishing his position, though Piggy discourages him from doing so. Ralph, Simon, and Piggy yearn hopefully for some guidance from the adult world.
After twins Sam and Eric, who are in charge of keeping the smoke signal going, report possibly seeing the beast atop a mountain, Ralph and Jack investigate; they encounter the corpse and the open parachuteof a fighter pilot who has landed on the island but mistake it as “the beast”, asleep. Jack assembles the children with the conch and confirms the beast’s existence to them. The meeting results in a schism, splitting the children into two groups….
The first “rescue” here would have been paying attention to the original crisis, and doing MORE stimulus, but we’ll let that pass. The question here is who Obama and Boehner sound like? Who sounds like Ralph and who sounds like Jack?
Lord of the Flies is a novel about a death cult, as well. And I’ll leave the metaphor and its parallels to the Reader’s contemplation.
iii. The Death Cult of the Old South
“But the real secret to total gorgeousness is to believe in yourself, have self confidence, and try to be secure in your decisions and thoughts.”
— Kirsten Dunst,American Actress, 1982-present
This is the live webcam shot of “Big Red” the Citadel’s
battle flag, under which the first shots were fired at the “Star of the West’
attempting to resupply Fort Sumpter in Charlestown Harbor
It was returned to South Carolina from Michigan in 2010.
As were the Southern Senators who ultimately led the Confederacy, ANOTHER death cult. Listen:
Five myths about why the South seceded
The Washington Post
By James W. Loewen, Published: February 25, 2011
1. The South seceded over states’ rights.
Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states’ rights — that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.
3. Most white Southerners didn’t own slaves, so they wouldn’t secede for slavery.
Indeed, most white Southern families had no slaves. Less than half of white Mississippi households owned one or more slaves, for example, and that proportion was smaller still in whiter states such as Virginia and Tennessee. It is also true that, in areas with few slaves, most white Southerners did not support secession. West Virginia seceded from Virginia to stay with the Union, and Confederate troops had to occupy parts of eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama to hold them in line.
However, two ideological factors caused most Southern whites, including those who were not slave-owners, to defend slavery. First, Americans are wondrous optimists, looking to the upper class and expecting to join it someday. In 1860, many subsistence farmers aspired to become large slave-owners. So poor white Southerners supported slavery then, just as many low-income people support the extension of George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy now.
Second and more important, belief in white supremacy provided a rationale for slavery. As the French political theorist Montesquieu observed wryly in 1748: “It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures [enslaved Africans] to be men; because allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow that we ourselves are not Christians.” Given this belief, most white Southerners — and many Northerners, too — could not envision life in black-majority states such as South Carolina and Mississippi unless blacks were in chains. Georgia Supreme Court Justice Henry Benning, trying to persuade the Virginia Legislature to leave the Union, predicted race war if slavery was not protected. “The consequence will be that our men will be all exterminated or expelled to wander as vagabonds over a hostile earth, and as for our women, their fate will be too horrible to contemplate even in fancy.” Thus, secession would maintain not only slavery but the prevailing ideology of white supremacy as well.
5. The South couldn’t have made it long as a slave society.
Slavery was hardly on its last legs in 1860. That year, the South produced almost 75 percent of all U.S. exports. Slaves were worth more than all the manufacturing companies and railroads in the nation. No elite class in history has ever given up such an immense interest voluntarily. Moreover, Confederates eyed territorial expansion into Mexico and Cuba. Short of war, who would have stopped them — or forced them to abandon slavery?
To claim that slavery would have ended of its own accord by the mid-20th century is impossible to disprove but difficult to accept. In 1860, slavery was growing more entrenched in the South. Unpaid labor makes for big profits, and the Southern elite was growing ever richer. Freeing slaves was becoming more and more difficult for their owners, as was the position of free blacks in the United States, North as well as South. For the foreseeable future, slavery looked secure. Perhaps a civil war was required to end it.
This is a more stark analogy, because, in many ways it is less an analogy than a continuation. Boehner himself inadvertently strips the problem naked in his speech this morning, when he asks the rhetorical question:
The other example is in South Carolina, where the Boeing company recently completed a plant that will create thousands of new full-time jobs for American workers — only to be sued by a federal agency that wants to shut it down.
Let make sure I have this straight: under current rules, American companies are free to create jobs in China, but they aren’t free to create them in South Carolina?
I think that most Americans would agree that American companies ought not be “free” to create jobs in China.
Boeing is under a regulation that prohibits companies from dumping union jobs in a state that allows unions by moving the same jobs to a state that has “right to work” (a/k/a “right to starve”) laws. China, all cheerfully admit, has jobs that Americans would consider slave-labor conditions, if not the ACTUAL slave labor that occurs in several industries.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives thinks that he is endorsing the freedom of American business to lower the wages of South Carolina aerospace workers as a path out of high unemployment. I realize that my answer to his rhetorical question was not the answer he and his audience thought to be obvious.
Ideology has trapped the entire Republican caucus into an inability and unwillingness to ever increase a tax for any reason, ever, while if a tax cut was too deep, it must be made permanent. When you close your problem solving ability to entire CLASSES of solutions — solutions that have demonstrably worked, by the by — you have moved your furniture from the real world and installed it in your picture of the world.
He was certain about policy, too.
If Speaker Boehner and the GOP know anything about “business” they are aware that the single most important piece of the economic puzzle is confidence. Wall Street and the markets are, quite literally, a confidence game. When confidence in the banking system collapses, there are “runs” on banks that — until awful “regulations” were put in place — put the bank out of business, as its “Ponzi scheme” collapsed. Having loaned out all the money, a run on ANY bank would destroy it, and leave the great majority of depositors without a penny.
Them’s the facts.
So, why would the Republicans in Congress spend the ENTIRE MONTH of July holding the national business hostage over the “debt” package — which was only a theoretical crisis — while sparking a crisis of confidence in the markets? Surely they can’t be that divorced from reality.
Or perhaps they are.
You see, if you’ve ever been in a real crisis — a flood, an earthquake, a tornado, a hurricane — you know that you have to deal with TODAY today, and worry about TOMORROW tomorrow. The greater the crisis, the more that time contracts to the immediate. And yet, in the “debt crisis” crisis, a future crisis was focused on to the exclusion of the immediate crisis. In fact, throughout the entire Obama Presidency, the GOP has resolutely been on strike, because, evidently, they don’t use the same wind that everyone else uses, nor sail in the same waters, nor eat from the same tree.
Which is why it becomes a death cult.
iv. Crisis Management Dos and Don’ts
Subcontractor guarding Independence hall.
See “The British are Coming! Oh, wait.“
In a crisis, NOT cooperating can be every bit as deadly as wilfully obstructing. Imagine a fire in a modern building, with the elevators out of order and sealed fire doors on the first floor. Standing at the doorway is a Security Guard named Jack. Jack is listening to his iPod and doesn’t hear the frantic banging on the door and doesn’t turn to open it so that the hundreds on the stairs can escape the blaze above.
Or, Jack hears their shouts, but he has strict orders not to open the door under any circumstances, unless he gets approval from the security center on the top floor (which is in flames, unforeseen by Jack’s company’s policy.) Jack hears, and even understands, but he CAN’T go against policy. Can’t go against his ideology. He has signed a pledge to never open that door, in fact. (Jack is secretly a member of Door Openers Anonymous, and has been clean for over a year).
What do we make of Jack’s role in the crisis?
Whatever spin we want to put on it — i.e. Jack is a free and sovereign individual fulfilling his contract to the letter and, having sworn not to open the fire door, he has remained true to his ideals and his profession — we can all agree that a promotion does not lie in Jack’s future.
v. Sinister dealings with Dextrous Foes
“Sir, What is the secret of your success?” a reporter asked a bank president.
“And, sir, what are they?”
“And how do you make good decisions?”
“And sir, what is that?”
“And how do you get Experience?”
“And, sir, what are they?”
Which brings us back to “leftist.”
We turn to Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government blog for elucidation:
There’s only one problem: the leftists are anything but “liberal.” In fact, I stopped using the term “liberal” to describe leftists quite some time ago. I call them what they are: “leftists,” i.e., people who espouse weakness in the face of dictators overseas and favor a dictatorial big-government doctrine here at home.
Today I’m asking everyone engaged in the cultural battle (you people, in other words) to join me in my crusade to strip “liberal” from the leftist lexicon. We must stop using the word “liberal” to describe those people on the other side of the divide.
So let’s strip “liberal” from the national lexicon, at least as it’s used today. Let’s stop dignifying big-government, dictator-coddling leftists as “liberals.”
I don’t know about you, but the slur was “liberal.” For years and years, it was the word “liberal” uttered with the inflection of the N-word.
One of the viral images that got a certain Indiana insurance
executive fired. See “The Racism Scandal that really was”
But that wasn’t good enough. Bob Dole’s old Kansas creepiness of “the Democrat” this and that, an intentional slight, however slight was supplanted with the formerly honorable word “liberal” — which also sufficed to include “Feminazis” when you shortened it to “libs” while ranting on your FreeRepublic thread.
And still the bait wasn’t taken, and the ante was upped. I think that it came in right around the 2008 election, but I would be glad to know something definitive. Certainly it is a recent phenomenon. For as long as I can remember “leftist” was nearly always followed by “guerrillas,” and never to a government or movement that the United States was formally friendly. Here, let me start a gazillion CBS Evening news broadcasts for you, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather or Katie Couric, imagine whatever voice you’d like:
Good evening. Tonight in [Insert Country Name Here] government forces battled leftist guerrillas in the small town of [toss a salad of consonants].
And then it was applied to the former “liberals” and “progressives,” again, with the inflection of the N-word.
bloggy repurposing of Smokey
Now, why, you might ask, is “leftist” and playing sadistic frat house pranks on the Presidency (the office, not the man), and consciously gumming up the gears of government important? How do they relate?
Perhaps the kindest way to put it is that these are all symptoms of a form of passive treason. Worse, they are literal cracks in the bridge from barbarism to civilization. It is no coincidence that civility and civilization sound a lot alike.
Civil War: Battle of Williamsburg
The difference between the two is the difference between Jack and Ralph.
And what is the end game here? Every fagot thrown on the Bonfire of the Hannitys fire builds the flame of hatred.
And how can that lead to a good outcome? When half of America hates the other half, tragedy is the final domino to fall, no matter who’s “right.” But the “picture of the world” that the GOP is marching in lock step to brooks no other conclusion.
There is method to this madness, of course. The fundamental analysis of our representative form of government has always been and was early understood that that wealthy elite did not and would never have a majority of votes. Therefore, elections would be won by what have been variously called, wedge issues, divide and conquer, pitting class against class, etcetera.
And, in the election Tuesday to fill Anthony Weiner’s involuntarily vacated seat, the divide and conquer tactics had Orthodox Jews voting against an Orthodox Jew to “send a message” to the Black President about how he’s not being nice to Israel. Some of the mailers were pretty over-the-top, fanning hatred of Muslims, Blacks, tolerance and 9-11 Ground Zero Hallowedness in a perfect stew of class against class.
So, yes, it works. Sort of.
But where can this slow ramp up of hate lead to?
New York GOP triumphalism
(as filtered through Murdoch)
You might remember:
“Ronald Reagan tore down this wall (the Fairness Doctrine) in 1987 … and Rush Limbaugh was the first man to proclaim himself liberated from the East Germany of liberal media domination.” — Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger (April 29, 2005) “Rush to Victory”. (via Wikipedia)
2012 will mark twenty-five years since that moment. And what has happened to our national dialogue? Lincoln paraphrased the Bible when he said “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” And what we have become — almost exclusively through conscious demonization by the GOP of anyone who doesn’t agree, sorry, GOPs — is a nation bitterly divided over … what?
Over very little substantively. Imaginary babies and illusory freedoms that have somehow been denied to businesses and corporations is the “beast,” the monster that Jack’s boys chase through the Washingtonian jungle. In reality, we increasingly see the GOP Congress defining itself almost exclusively on being against whatever the President of the United States is FOR.
More for ME!
Irrespective of what might best serve the interests of the actual nation in the real world inhabited by real people. In their simulation, anyone receiving a government check is a parasite, a welcher, and welfare Queen. (This last has persisted long after its actual real world meaning — which was questionable in the best of times — has leeched into meaninglessness.) If you are poor in America, you aren’t really poor, therefore poverty isn’t an issue is not the result of real world feedback from an image of the real world. It is the result of self-delusion.
And now one in five children in America is growing up in poverty. A poverty that the corporate tools of the Heritage Foundation (a factory of mendacity that is, perhaps, the granddaddy of all GOP policy shops, founded with six figures’ worth of Pete Coors’ money in 1973) released a REPORT recently, widely cited, showing that American poor people aren’t really poor at all. They have refrigerators and TVs, don’t cha know?
[Insert cliché boiling frog analogy here, but don’t expect any actual ideation to proceed from the citation.]
Seriously: when the point of your sophistry is to deny that poor people are actually poor, the next point you feel may well be the point of a guillotine blade, as Marie Antoinette found out, to her dismay.
Dr. Guillot’s magic wealth equalization machine
Even worse, they refuse to admit that the economic meltdown was created by illegal, unethical or behavior that ought to be regulated.
As I’ve noted before, this lunatic partisanship is sundering brother from brother, parent from child. And what that is symptomatic of is a profound diagnosis.
Government is, at base, organic, and the first form of government anywhere is the family. When the partisanship has reached down to the level of destroying families, of denouncing science and scientists, of setting national policy based on the fever dreams spawned by the least intelligible book of the Bible, of valuing hypothetical babies over actual, living women, and, not coincidentally, hypothetical financial crises over clear and present crises, this is not merely pernicious, but actively toxic to society itself.
And, to a social animal (of which humanity is every bit as much as any bee hive or ant hill), this kind of destruction and deep undermining of the social mortar of civility, politesse and fundamental tolerance of the equality of other humans IN that society is exactly toxic. What else can it be? There is no upside.
Is there a financial crisis or isn’t there?
For a significant number of American companies, record profits have been piling up. And the stock market, which was bullish, slipped back a few notches, but not so far as the “magical” 10,000. Businesses (as Boehner notes) are sitting on a TRILLION dollars of capital, supposedly waiting for the “shackes” to be unloosed, that they may safely get back to their job creatin’ hobby without any “uncertainty.”
Ah, uncertainty. The hallmark of the Real World, only avoidable by living in a mental simulation of a real world.
Uncertainty? They’re agin’ it.
Come ‘ere, uncertainty!
One party is not merely on strike, but actively HINDERING any attempt at dealing with the economic crisis, or even admitting that it actually exists. They seem to have “lost” it. (See yesterday for what “lost” means.)
For most Americans, yes, we are in an economic crisis. You probably can see it on what’s NOT on your table or in your gas tank. (And, as I noted earlier, we are not merely failing to address the imminent disaster of America’s infrastructure, which means, roads, bridges, dams, solid waste, liquid waste and water treatment, but we are also failing to address the huge displacement of skilled workers caused by the Information revolution.) The answer to the question, therefore, depends on WHO you are. Is there an “economic crisis”?
No: instead Jack and his bully boys squat on their haunches by the fire, eating their fresh-killed meat while Ralph and his undernourished band try to maintain the fire that will lead to rescue.
But we’re already into the death cult phase. And last week’s 9-11 commemorations reminded us that for the past ten years, we, as a nation, began killing as a matter of national policy and have never stopped, no matter what you think about the rightness or wrongness of the endeavors.
Secession: the Real Deal
That’s a lot of guys coming back who’ve mastered the notion of problem solving at the barrel of a gun.
If you want to follow this thought through, take a look at Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone post, “Apocalyptic GOP Is Dragging Us Into a Civil War.”*
Or, the short version: “I got MINE, Jack!”
And a very special tip o’ the Vorpal hat to eagle-eyed reader Mark E.!
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.